Fall is here, and that means apple-picking, spooky hay rides, and all things pumpkin spice! It’s one of the best times of year to be outside enjoying all of the beautiful colors, so why would you want to spend it inside making dinner? My thoughts exactly.
Crockpot recipes often call for calorie-laden ingredients like heavy cream, butter, and condensed soups. But, with simple modifications, you can save a TON of calories while still creating a delicious, hands-off dinner.
These 10 healthy and delicious slow cooker meals are so easy and simple to throw in a pot, you’ll be making them on repeat all season! I’ve included cozy soups, chilis, and hearty dishes that are packed with nutrients, protein, and complex carbohydrates.
The best part: these lightened up versions of your favorite comfort food classics definitely don’t compromise on flavor. Even better, I’ve added recipe suggestions so that you can tailor each to your own preferences and taste.
So, start stocking up on squash and pumpkin because you’ll be making these meals faster than you can say “slow cooker!”
*Pro-tip: Prepare and chop ingredients overnight or on weekends to get ahead. Then, all you have to do is throw them in the day of.
1. Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup
Sneaking in extra veggies can be a challenge, but this kid-friendly soup is filled with vitamin A from the sweet butternut squash and carrots, as well as nutrients from the antioxidant-rich apples. It’s a great mix of sweet & savory that everyone will love.
* Pro-tip: If you want to omit some of the fat content from the coconut milk, try using tofu or light coconut milk.
- 1 whole butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 10 oz. bag of shredded carrots
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium green apple, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tbsp. fresh, or 1/4 tsp. dried sage
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 can coconut milk
- Using an apple peeler, peel the butternut squash, remove seeds, then dice.
- Place squash, carrots, onion, and apple into the crockpot.
- Add chicken stock, garlic, sage, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir.
- Cook on high for 1-2 hours or low for 3-4 hours.
- Puree with an immersion blender or carefully pour into blender.
- Stir in coconut milk.
- Taste, then add more salt or pepper if needed.
2. Slow Cooker Sausage Kale Soup
This soup may look deceiving with only a few staple ingredients, but it certainly does not cut any corners on flavor. The delicious blend of mirepoix, kale, and sausage provides vitamin A, vitamin K, and plenty of protein to keep you full and satisfied. You can keep this recipe low-carb just the way it is, or feel free to add in some whole wheat pasta.
* Pro-tip: Try swapping the pork sausage for chicken sausage to cut down on some of the fat. This recipe uses the reserved sausage fat to saute the onion, carrots, and celery, but you can also choose to use a fresh pan with olive oil instead.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cups chopped carrots
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 32 oz cartons chicken stock or broth (about 8 cups)
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 4 cups chopped kale
- 1 1lb sage sausage
- Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
- In a large skillet or pot, cook sausage over medium heat while breaking into pieces. Once brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Drain fat from pan, leaving about 1 Tablespoon.
- Cook garlic, onion, carrots and celery in reserved fat for 4-5 minutes or until fragrant.
- Transfer veggies into a slow cooker, add stock, pepper, salt and stir in sausage.
- Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. Add kale to the slow cooker about 10 minutes before serving.
- Portion soup into bowls, season with additional salt, pepper and parmesan if using.
3. Slow Cooker Chicken Chile Verde:
For the nights when you’re in the mood for something different, but aren’t quite sure what to have, this chicken chile verde is your go-to. You can throw all of the ingredients in the crockpot while you’re coffee is brewing and just like that, dinner is made!
Even though this chile verde is a low-carb option, you can always add in some whole grains with brown rice or whole wheat tortillas.
* Pro-tip: Make this recipe kid friendly by using tortillas to make tacos and top with shredded veggies – carrots, lettuce, tomatoes.
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 12-ounce jar Salsa Verde (such as Trader Joe’s)
- 1 4-ounce can fire-roasted green chiles
- ½ tsp ground cumin (such as Simply Organic)
- ½ tsp dried oregano (such as Simply Organic)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh cilantro, lime wedges and/or diced avocado for serving, optional
- Cauliflower rice or lettuce leaves for serving
- Place chicken in the slow cooker.
- In a small bowl, combine salsa, green chiles, cumin, and oregano. Pour over chicken.
- Place lid on the slow cooker and cook on LOW heat for 6-8 hours.
- Remove lid and allow the chicken to cool slightly before shredding it with 2 forks right in the slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer to a serving dish, top with chopped fresh cilantro and serve with lime wedges, if desired.
- Serve over cauliflower rice or in lettuce wraps.
4. Beef stew:
A healthier spin on the hearty classic, this beef stew is filled with a rainbow of fiber-rich, seasonal veggies, protein, and carbohydrates to keep you feeling full all night. This recipe does involve a little more meal prep, with chopping and searing, but the extra leftovers are well worth it!
* If time allows, prep the veggies the night before and throw in a bowl in the refrigerator. In the morning, just brown the meat and add everything to the crockpot.
- 2 lbs. stew meat
- 1 Tbsp. cooking oil of choice
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium potatoes, diced
- 2 small parsnips, peeled and diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces — canned or frozen works too!
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 ½ tsp. dried thyme (may substitute 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme)
- ½ tsp. dried rosemary (lightly crushed between your fingers; may substitute 1 ½ fresh rosemary, chopped)
- Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
- 2 Tbsp. potato starch (optional)
- Heat ½ Tbsp. cooking oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of the beef and cook until browned, 2-3 minutes, then flip and repeat until browned on all sides. Transfer meat to the slow cooker and repeat with remaining oil and beef.
- Place remaining ingredients in the slow cooker (with the exception of green beans, salt, pepper, and potato starch). Stir, place lid on the slow cooker and cook on LOW heat for 8 hours or HIGH heat for 4 hours. Stir in green beans during the last 30-60 minutes of cooking time. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Optional step to thicken stew: Combine potato starch with a few tablespoons of cold water and stir into the hot stew to thicken.
5. Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili:
Not all chilis need to have meat, and this recipe is a tasty option for those that would prefer a veggies-only dish. The lentils and black beans provide an excellent source of plant-based protein and fiber to keep you satisfied. Plus, it is pumpkin spice season and we can’t forget to add the nutrient-dense favorite!
* Pro-tip: Swap the lentils for another can of beans or chickpeas if you don’t care for the taste.
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium bell pepper, diced (I used red)
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can (19oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup split red lentils
- 1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
- 2 cups vegetable broth, no salt added
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Add all the ingredients to the bowl of your slow cooker. Stir together and cover. Cook on high for 5 hours.
- Ladle the chili into bowls and top with avocado, black pepper, green onions and cheese if desired.
6. Chicken cacciatore:
Some nights, you’re really in the mood for italian, but not exactly the time it takes to make italian. This chicken cacciatore brings all of the flavor, but half of the time. Better yet, this dish offers a nice balance of both nutrient-dense tomatoes and spaghetti squash, as well as protein.
* Pro-tip: Purchase pre-made spaghetti squash, either fresh or frozen, to save time in the evening. You can also serve the chicken with another veggie of your choice, whole wheat pasta, or quinoa.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium onions diced
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 16 ounces crimini mushrooms sliced
- 2 bell peppers, your choice diced
- 2 (1-lb.) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 (6 oz. ) can tomato paste
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes optional
- 1/3 cup fresh basil chopped, for garnish
- 2, 4 lbs spaghetti squash, each cooked, yield 8 cups
- In the slow cooker or a saute pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onions and saute until they are translucent. Add the garlic and saute until light brown, then add the mushrooms and bell peppers. Saute for about 2-3 minutes. Set aside when done.
- Place the chicken into the slow cooker, and add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, white wine, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sea salt, lemon juice and red pepper flakes. If using a saute pan add the mushroom mixture to the chicken. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until chicken is tender (about 6-8 hours on low or 3 1/2-4 hours on high)
- Preheat oven to 400⁰F.
- Place the squash in a medium-sized pan. Poke a fork in several places on the squash so steam escapes. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, and place it in the oven. Cook for 45 – 60 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce through into the squash.
- Remove the squash from the oven, and let cool for a few minutes. Cut the squash in half and gently scoop out the seeds. Then use a fork to scrape the spaghetti-like strands from the inner flesh of the squash. Place spaghetti squash either on plates or on a platter.
- When chicken is done, serve over spaghetti squash and garnish with basil
7. Pumpkin turkey chili:
This healthy dish packs a protein punch, with lean ground turkey and beans – a great plant-based source. The addition of pumpkin puree provides immune boosting vitamin A, vitamin C, and an extra creamy texture.
* Pro-tip: Top with low-fat greek yogurt instead of sour cream to lower calories.
- 3 medium to large carrots or 1lb baby carrots
- 3 stalks of celery
- ½ sweet onion
- 1 can great northern beans
- 1 can milk chili beans
- 1 can pumpkin puree
- 1 lb lean ground turkey
- 1 can tomatoes with green chilis
- 1 can low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1.5 tsp cumin
- 1.5 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ heaping tsp pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- dash of red pepper flakes
- Peel carrots.
- Dice carrots, celery and onion. Place in a 6-quart crockpot.
- Add all canned goods to crockpot.
- Add turkey to crockpot, use a spoon to break it up to avoid large chunks.
- Either use a garlic press or finely mince garlic and add to crockpot.
- Add all spices.
- Mix all ingredients together until just combined.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
- Serve hot, may top with cheese, plain greek yogurt, and/or green onion if desired.
8. Beef stroganoff:
A childhood favorite, this healthier beef stroganoff uses lean sirloin steak, and replaces the traditional cream of mushroom soup with greek yogurt and fresh mushrooms to add protein and cut calories. Using greek yogurt also keeps the texture rich and creamy.
* Pro-tip: If you’re unable to find whole wheat egg noodles, use any noodle of choice.
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless sirloin steak — cut into thin (1/2-inch-thick) 2-inchx1-inch strips
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried dill-weed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 16 ounces cremini — baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth — divided
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt — do not use nonfat or it will curdle
- 8 ounces whole wheat egg noodles — penne, rotini, or similar noodles work well also
- Fresh parsley or thyme — opt
- Grease the bottom of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add the sirloin and sprinkle with salt, dill, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir to coat the meat.
- Add the mushrooms, 1 cup beef broth, Worcestershire, and Dijon. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or on low for 5 to 7 hours, until the beef is cooked through and tender. (If you prefer firmer mushrooms, wait to add them until about halfway through the cook time.)
- Stir the cornstarch together with the remaining 1/2 cup broth to create a slurry. Stir the mixture into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 20 minutes, and then stir in the Greek yogurt. Re-cover and cook on high for an additional 10 minutes.
- While the stroganoff finishes cooking, cook the noodles according to package instructions. Stir into the slow cooker or pile separately into bowls and ladle the stroganoff over the top. Serve immediately, topped with fresh thyme or parsley as desired.
9. Pumpkin coconut curry:
This recipe is another excellent vegetarian option that uses chickpeas to provide plant-based protein. The sweetness of the pumpkin and savory flavor of the peanut butter tie this curry together for a warm fall meal.
* Pro-tip: Use light coconut milk if you’d like to lower the fat content.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cans (15.5oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree or 1 3/4 cups
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1 (13.6oz) can coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 small bunch kale, roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- Rice, chopped peanuts, cilantro and lime for serving
- In a 5 quart slow cooker, add onion, carrot, garlic, chickpeas, pumpkin, peanut butter, coconut milk, vegetable broth, curry powder and salt. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
- Stir in kale and red bell pepper and cook for another hour, leaving slow cooker uncovered. Add lime juice.
- Serve with rice, chopped peanuts, cilantro and lime.
10. Pot roast & vegetables:
A tender and flavorful pot roast is one of the best aromas after a long day. This recipe not only uses grass-fed meat, but it also adds vitamin K and potassium-rich veggies, like carrots and potatoes. Simple, yet satisfying. Just add everything together for a yummy dinner that will be ready when you walk in the door.
* Pro-tip: Substitute avocado or olive oil for the canola oil if you’d prefer.
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- One 2 1/2 pound grass fed chuck roast
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 large yellow onion, cut into 10 wedges
- 1 cup red wine, use something drinkable (not something you opened 6 months)
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 cup beef broth
- One 14.5-ounce can organic diced tomatoes
- 1 pound small, waxy potatoes (red skin, white, or yukon gold)
- 4 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 6 large sprigs fresh thyme
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper over the surface of the meat.
- Set a large heavy skillet over high heat. Add the canola oil and when it’s good and hot, add the roast. Brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
- Add the onions and wine to the pan, stir, and adjust the heat until the wine simmers. Simmer for 3 minutes. Transfer the wine and onions to the slow cooker along with the garlic, broth, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, thyme, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir well. Nestle the meat into the vegetables a bit and secure the slow cooker lid.
- Cook the meat until very tender (you should be able to cut it with a fork): about 5 to 6 hours on high or 9 to 10 hours on low.
- Cut into slices and serve with the juices spooned over the top and the potatoes and carrots on the side.
Tried one of these recipes? Let us know how it came out in the comments!